Today, I’m sharing a simple act of kindness. An act that’s floated in and out of my mind since it happened nearly a month ago. I’m sharing this simple act of kindness to inspire you and to remind you that it doesn’t take much to make someone feel good!
Earlier this spring, I made the big and bold decision to expand my practice. It was a scary decision, one that took an enormous amount of courage. Life quickly became stressful, signing leases, crunching numbers, planning new hires, and designing a new office space. All of my attention was on the new practice. Balance went out the window, and life’s other priorities got pushed aside.
One of the biggest things to get pushed aside? My workouts. While I’m not super into health and fitness, I have developed a pretty consistent workout routine over the last three years, waking up at 5:00 am for my beloved Orangetheory class.
At 5:00 am, it’s a pretty regular crew at our studio. Yet, I don’t actually know the people in my class that well. I know a few first names. I know who likes what number treadmill. And I know who likes rap versus eighties rock. Recently, I’ve become Facebook friends with a few of my classmates, but in all honesty, I still don’t know them that well.
So during the stressful season of opening the new practice, I made the decision to ease up on my workouts. I knew I couldn’t stay up till midnight, wired on caffeine, and then wake up at 4:30 am. So I gave myself permission to “take a B” and get back on the workout train when things settled down.
A month went by, when Facebook alerted me to a new message. I was taken aback to see a message from one of the fellow 5:00 am Orangetheory members. It read, “Hey Alli. I haven’t seen you guys for a while. It might be that I’ve been traveling a bit, but I wanted to check and see if you and Matt were ok.”
I stared at the screen. A bit stunned. Confused. And then in a quick second, I felt a wave of familiar emotion. Not happiness, not sadness. Not joy or embarrassment. This emotion was much more specific and nuanced. In that moment, I felt overwhelming seen.
“Seen” isn’t an emotion you hear often. But it’s powerful. Feeling seen is like someone saying, “I notice you. You matter. And you’re worth my attention.”
As I’ve reflected on this Facebook message, I thought back to an interaction over five years ago, when I took public transit to work. Every morning, I had the same bus driver, and then for a few weeks, he was gone. I wondered what had happened to him. I wondered if he got a new route. And then a week later, he was back, smiling like normal. I climbed up the bus stairs, “Hey man; welcome back! Where you been?”The look on his face was unmistakable. It was quick but clear. He felt noticed. He felt cared for. And he felt seen. Simply from a rider on his morning bus route.
When you comment on someone’s absence, you’re communicating several important things. One, that you notice them in the first place. This is a powerful message, particularly in a time when we’re connected to devices more often than one another. Second, you’re communicating that you noticed their absence. That the world felt a little different without them. And third, you’re communicating concern. Genuine and curious concern.
Feeling seen is powerful emotion. It’s deep, meaningful, and fulfilling. And when it comes from a near stranger, it will catch you off guard and fill your heart in a way you can’t fully explain. What would happen in our world if you truly saw the people around you? What would happen if you communicated concern and compassion more regularly? How could you catch a stranger off guard, reminding them that they matter and that you see them?
Maybe you’ve had a different postal carrier the last few weeks. And then suddenly your regular carrier comes back. Welcome them back. Help them feel seen. Maybe the clerk at your grocery store got a haircut. Surprise them with a compliment. Help them feel seen. Maybe one of the employees at your child’s daycare is back after few days out sick. Tell them you missed their smile at morning drop off. Help them feel seen.
Seeing others is a simple act of kindness. It takes less than two seconds. So pay attention as you move through the world. Look up from your phone. And be curious about the people in your shared spaces. Check in with them. Welcome them back. And comment when you see something different.
Feeling seen is a gift. A simple act of kindness. So the question is, who are you going to share it with?
PS: Looking for another, simple way to connect with the people around you? This simple trick is one of my favorites!